Category Archives: Recovery and Life in General

One Year After the Boston Marathon Bombing

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

In the past year, we have seen courage, resilience, and acts of compassion that far outweigh the heinous horrid acts committed that day.

Next Monday, the 118th Boston Marathon will take place. Many of the spectators, volunteers and runners who were injured will be watching. Many of them will even be running, some on new prosthetic legs, including Heather Abbot.

Today, in memory, I repost my piece “As a Runner I Will Run (Thoughts on Boston).”

It’s been a while since I’ve gone for a run; I haven’t run since I said goodbye to Spot. But today seems like a good day to start back. No, scratch that. Today is the perfect day to start back.

So today, and tomorrow, and next Monday, and the next . . . I will run.

As a runner, as a volunteer, as a spectator, as a human being, I will run.

I’ll be Running — you guessed it — on Sober.

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I had to do some soul-searching before deciding this – I didn’t want to take the spotlight away from Deanna or Josie who shared their “Life in Six Songs” yesterday. But they are both survivors–Josie is even in training for a 5k–I have a feeling they’d understand. But please do visit their post and then visit their blogs; they are phenomenal ladies.

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As a Runner, I Will Run (Thoughts on Boston)

originally posted April 16, 2013

As a runner, I am devastated.

Of course, simply being human makes me sad–my eyes take in images from the news, my ears hear over and over again the sounds of explosions and people screaming–of course, we are all sad. But this. As a runner, I feel this in my gut, and there is a mournful, wailing, angry force that pulls and constricts and tortures my insides. “This could have been you,” it taunts again and again in my ear, “this could have been you.”

And in a way, it was me.

As a runner, I have been there.

As a marathon runner, I have seen the crowds that gather to cheer and support running loved ones. I have high-fived eight-year old boys gathered along the side-lines. I have smiled gratefully at their moms standing behind them– “thank you!” I try to squeak out after miles and miles of exertion have stolen my voice. I have taken cups of water from volunteers lining the roads. I have given thumbs-ups to medical staff as I trotted by their tents. I have found inspiration from law enforcement working the races–even comparing them to song characters afterward.

I have smiled at race photographers, hoping for that one decent race picture. I have “oohed” and “awwwed” and petted dogs belonging to race spectators. I have gratefully read every home-made sign intended to urge us runners along–even those “You’re almost there!” when we’ve still got ten miles to go. I have smiled and taken a banana from a four-year old girl with the softest looking curls of golden hair I have ever seen–and I don’t even like bananas. I have savored the final stretch of a long race, eyeing the finish line, then scanning the crowds for friends and loved ones, before calling up all of my remaining energy to simply cross the finish.

I have been there.

Getting ready to cross the finish line of my first half. That's me in the blue shorts. My dad took this photo.

Getting ready to cross the finish line of my first half. That’s me in the blue shorts. My dad took this photo.

At my very first half-marathon in Virginia, my dad wedged himself into a prime viewing spot at the finish line. He stood upon soundstage boxes, probably climbing over trash cans and barricades just to cheer me on. It was a big event, there were thousands of runners. I wasn’t among the first finishers, not even close. I was slow. He was at the finish for a long time waiting for me and cheering on the others. He would have been at the finish line at Boston too. He would have been waiting for me, probably for a long time. My mom, sick with cancer, was at home getting updates from my dad on the phone; she would have been at Boston though.

I am the Boston runner who mourns her father and her mother.

My husband was there during my first marathon. In fact, he was at each mile waiting for me during the last six-mile stretch; driving on ahead of me to meet me with a water bottle that I was too tired to carry. He would have been at Boston waiting for me too. I would have found him on the sidelines and hugged him before going on to finish.

I am the Boston runner who mourns her spouse and children.

True, I wasn’t at Boston, so I can only imagine the pain the runners of Boston are feeling. I can only imagine the “what ifs”:

What if I had run faster? What if I hadn’t stopped to used the bathroom? What if I didn’t have to keep stopping to tie my shoelaces? What if I hadn’t had cramps? What if I hadn’t walked, and then walked some more? What if I hadn’t deferred from the heat last year? What if I told them to wait at the hotel for me instead? What if my flight had been cancelled? What if the weather had been a little bit cooler, a little bit warmer?

What if I had seen something? What if I had said something?

What if I hadn’t run fast enough to qualify? What if I had listened to my doctors and not run on this bad ankle? What if I hadn’t stopped to pet that dog? What if I had? What if I hadn’t said “I love you.”? What if I had never decided to run Boston? What if I was just a slow, thirty-something, recreational runner with no shot of ever being fast enough to qualify for Boston, sitting at her dining room table wondering “what if I had been there?”

What if I had been there?

So many questions and so much sadness, so much anger at a senseless horrendous crime.

As a runner, I know those that ran Boston will never run another race again with the same innocence and excitement. Running has been altered forever in their lives. Some will stop running. Most will not.

Most runners will continue to run, because that is what we do. When we are faced with pain and confusion and questions and heartache and loss and anger, we run. Running is how we survive, running is how we cope.

As a runner, I am devastated.

As a runner, I will run.

Today, as a runner, I will run for Boston.

And tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, I will run. I will run for those that cannot. I will run for every volunteer, every spectator, every family member, every friend, every young child, and every dog that has ever lined a finish area. I will run with renewed gratitude for as long as I am fortunate enough to do so.

As a runner, I will not cower in the face of terrorism.

I will move forward, and I will run.

In The Spaces In Between

I revisit my free-writes today, as a few of you seemed to enjoy my last one, “Leaves.” Today I share a piece on endings, or sometimes the lack of, and on the choices that end up creating our own stories. I decided on this one (versus a much odder, darker one, which I promise to share next week Mish), because in Michelle’s most recent Braveheart Chronicles post, “Who Were You Before You Became You?” I commented to her:

Everything has made us who we are. Pages and chapters in our books … But we can write our future pages anyway we choose.

Additionally, congrats to Michelle who had her first Braveheart piece, “Courageous vs. Brave,” featured on My Empowered World.com. We’re all very proud of you and your courage, Michelle, way to go!

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and condolences on the loss of my little girl, Spot. It’s been a tough few weeks, but thank goodness for good friends and good music. (The “Life in 6 Songs” series has been a wonderful lift-me-up. — quick note, everyone that has indicated interest will be emailed by me, Michelle or Jennie no later than Monday. I’ll share another 6 Songs update on Monday’s post.)

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In The Spaces In Between

We are not the sum of our final pages. Our stories are not told in our final chapters.

Image by Alegri (via) Used with CC permission.

Image by Alegri (via). Used with CC 3.0 permission.

I saw the movie Ain’t Them Bodies Saints yesterday. (Spoiler alert.) After watching, my husband said, “It was strange. Not a bad strange, just strange.”

I agreed, though I was captivated by the story. An outlaw, free and wild, is forced to change after her partner is locked up. She decides to wait for him and raises their daughter on her own. She becomes tranquil—her hair longer, her arms doting ever on a child. She is a mere shadow of the woman she once was.

In one scene, boys with a BB gun shoot at her house. She runs out, but instead of going ballistic, she says, “Gimme that,” to the boy with the gun.

She raises it. Aims. And shoots at something in the distance.

She smiles. It’s the most genuine smile we see on her face since her partner went away.

For a moment, just for a moment, she is wild and free again.

A gentle man comes to love her—a cop—and says to her, “It doesn’t matter what you did in your past. I look at you with your daughter, and all I see is good.”

Which direction will her life go? Toward the past—to wild, to free, to passion? Or forward—a continuation of her present—to good, to tranquil, to family?

She never gets to make that decision. Circumstance and the gods make it for her when they kill her partner. She can never go back to her past.

But, her future is wide open. Does she choose revenge? Does she kill herself to join her partner? Does she run away from it all to escape her past and her present? Or does she choose “good” and hope for a tranquil life of love and do-gooding, of guitars and horses and cops?

We will never know. Because this story just ended.

Some endings are tidy. They sum up everything and wrap a pretty bow around the words as a gift to those reading or observing. But most endings just are. Endings that is. We often never see them coming. There was so much left to say, to be told, to be explained.

And some endings just plain suck. They’re awful. They’re a let down. They leave you wondering why you invested a portion of your life in them, or mad that you couldn’t invest more. Your favorite character dies—worse, your favorite character is killed off. You don’t get to say good-bye.

We focus so much on that ending. On that horrible ending. On that let-down. On the questions. We forget the simple beauty of the story itself. The sun glistening in the hair, the laughter, the dances, the letters full of yearning, the declarations of undying love. We forget the details—the moments in between—and, yet, that’s where life is lived.

“It didn’t have a beginning or an ending,” my husband later realized. “It just picked-up, and it just dropped-off.”

It was a snapshot. It captured the spaces—the moments—in between.

Perhaps we focus too hard on beginnings, on endings. After all, they’re just pick-ups and drop-offs.

The good stuff—life—is lived in the spaces in between.

 

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Do you like open endings? Do you prefer them tied up neat and tidy for you? If you could call up an author and talk about a book, who would you call? What book would you discuss? 

* Quick edit to add: I have not seen The Walking Dead finale. I’m sure someone dies in it, but I don’t want to know. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t mention it in the comments. If you do, I’ve asked Jennie to move your comment to pending status. ;)

Who were You before You became You? (Braveheart Chronicles Vol. 2)

Every memory of looking out the back door
I had the photo album spread out on my bedroom floor
It’s hard to say it, time to say it
Goodbye, goodbye.

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I miss that town
I miss the faces
You can’t erase
You can’t replace it
I miss it now
I can’t believe it
So hard to stay
Too hard to leave it

~Photograph by Nickelback

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Last June, after 46 years of being a smiling face in someone else’s photo album, I had a mini-breakdown. That meltdown manifested as internal irritability, weight loss, sleep deprivation and an overwhelming desire to curl up into fetal position in order to keep my ugly insides from spilling and stinking up the place. To that, I added a lethal dose of self-loathing and fear that my unwarranted, toxic attitude would wreck my kids’ lives.

Those blues came on like thick molasses, crept into my brain like poison ivy and I did everything I could think of to ignore the blackness.  It had probably been there for years and laid dormant until it wasn’t. I attributed the depression to hormones, empty nesting, dwindling relationships and a stubborn refusal to grow old.

Instead of panicking, I did the things I do to self-heal, incite resilience and not be the victim. Running, gardening, boxing, praying and working harder so that I could feel worthy of the love and acceptance I was blessed to receive from everyone close to me. Love that I pushed away when offered.

Love I didn’t think I deserved.

After a couple of months, those efforts proved futile as I became more withdrawn, moody and mute as my insides shot darts through my thick skin and the Michelle Smile became more canned. Any chance at sanity became a choice of “giving in” and getting help or losing my soul in a really deep, dark place.

My husband was mortified when I told him (after my first appointment) that I was going to therapy. He didn’t even know that anything was wrong. His happy homemaker, the super working mom of his children who never needed sleep, had lost her tattooed smile and collapsed into a worthless slump on the floor. I don’t know if he was more upset at the puddle of mud or the fact that he couldn’t be to the one to “fix” me.

In traditional style, the counselor spent a lot of time asking about my childhood and I was  surprised by the audible gasps she would let slip from time to time. Experiences my therapist friend called trauma were the same things I chalked up to “lessons,” “life experiences” and “strengthening exercises” and I wasn’t convinced that anything “bad” had ever happened to me. Among other things, she diagnosed me with a perfection complex which I took as a compliment and then hated myself for being so prideful. It took some convincing  that I needed and “deserved” her help.

Happy and blessed people don’t need therapy. I’m just wasting her time.

Then she led me to the research of Brene’ Brown and that’s when the real healing began. I reference Ms. Brown a lot in my own blog and it’s her work that has inspired me to talk about our courageous subject today.

As part of my journey, I signed up for one of *Brene’s online art classes. I’m not even a “draws a clever stick person” type of artist but this class sounded like fun–therapy awash in watercolors! It was written and facilitated by Brene’ on the Oprah network and based on her research around Wholehearted Living.

The first week was a piece of cake. We were instructed to paint “permission slips” for things like: I give myself permission to be imperfect or I give myself permission to “be lazy” in bright, shiny paint.  Then I had to take a selfie (ugh!) with some inspiring words written on my hand and paste it in my art journal next to the permission slips.

IMG_6364

(See the pile of laundry behind my hand?!?)

 

The second assignment was titled, “Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People think.”

We (me and 1000 or so of my closest friends) had to pick two or three photos that captured our authentic self. A picture that revealed the person we were before we learned to please and exposed to environments that programmed us to be someone we weren’t.

It had a very Throw Back Thursday feel to it.

When was I not a person struggling to be perfect, hustling for worthiness and earning the love and respect of others? When was the last time I was me? When was the last time you were YOU?

Looking through the pictures put me right back into that mud puddle. The photo below hopped into my mind immediately, but the perfect-seeker kept hiding it at the bottom of the pile.

I was three, ticked off, fighting mad and not afraid to let anyone see it.

IMG_6256

I couldn’t get the blasted wagon around the corner no matter how hard I pulled and pushed and maneuvered. Mom and Dad watched as I got madder and madder. I yanked that blasted rust bucket until tears streamed down my face and fatigue dropped me to my bottom. Daddy tried to help and I firmly refused–physically pushing him away from me in a fit of anger and tears.

WHY CAN’T I GET THIS!?!

Finally, exhaustion trumped effort and I let Daddy finish the task. As young as I was, I still remember the physical release of the banging and pulling as well as the relief once my little tantrum was over and I gave in. However, that relief was soon replaced with shame as my conscientious mom lectured me on being a lady, watching my temper and learning to control myself.

It was the beginning of many times that my very young parents told me to pipe down, be quiet and act like a grown-up. I hid that quick, German-Irish temper and stashed it into shadowy places that were only revealed when too much was put into the storage closet and the doors burst open at the weight from the load. I learned to hate this little girl in the picture so I locked her in a much-deserved basement just to shut her up.

After I hid that picture under the pile (again), I reached for others and tricked Christy and Jennie into sending me theirs! I knew what I was looking for and searched for a snapshot that showed a spirit of simple joy, unawareness and unfiltered honesty. A mug shot that revealed my life force before life happened to it.

See the Narnia lamppost?

See the Narnia lamppost?

Wouldn’t it be great if our favorite pictures were unedited versions of ourselves reflective of true joy and an authentic self shining through? If we had the courage to show/post those instead of our million times hipsta-edited selfies?

I know that there’s joy and sadness in looking at old pictures of yourself. The pure joy we find in an unprompted smile framed within the absence of self-consciousness. Then the sadness when we remember times we felt less than ourselves but had to put on a mask so that no one could see the vulnerable person cowering  beneath.

Guess who??

Guess who??

How often do we forget who we are because we get so tangled up into what others think we should be? What is wrong with expressing emotion, crying in public, laughing or saying something inappropriate?

Isn’t it courageous and so much less work to let other people see us the way we know we really are? Flaws and all?

Therapy taught me to nurture my fighting, resilient spirit and I thrived in an environment of newly found authenticity and ever-present gratitude. I embraced imperfection and got better at expressing my emotions instead of letting them fester like a gross, pus-filled pimples. Once I stopped putting on the happy face, I simply started being happy–the irritability and associated shame dissipated and light trickled into crevices where there used to be sludge.

For the first time, I owned up to my hidden introversion and gave myself permission to ask for “alone time” in order to recharge. Doing so allowed me to engage with my family from a place of Joy and grace rather than from a space of displaced resentment and fatigue brought on by keeping two or three versions of the truth going at once.

Does this mean we need to spill our life story and wear hearts on our sleeves?

Not necessarily.

Privacy plays a role in authenticity, too. First of all, it’s important to recognize that not everyone has earned the right to hear and know our stories. There are certain individuals who will take your story, use it against you and set you in a darker place than where you started.  In fact, Brene’ talks about the six types of “friends” NOT to confide in here.

i've always loved puppies

Cute Chica Christy and her pooch!

I’ve learned to “be real” with everyone, but not everyone understands or believes that I am. If someone doesn’t trust my genuine kindness or accepts my unconditional compassion at face value, then they don’t really know me and I’m not going to waste my efforts in making sure that they do.

To me, authenticity comes when you set boundaries and adhere to them because they reflect your own personal beliefs, values and goals. Values and goals that are yours.

And what boundaries are we talking about here?

It could be as simple as not volunteering for every little community event because people expect you to. Joining groups, sitting in the front pew at church or heading up every committee and being everywhere until you end up being nowhere at all.

Some boundaries are more difficult. It might involve kindly, but firmly easing people out of your life who continue to be toxic and counterintuitive to the person you are. Maybe it’s a group of moms who bash you (in the sweetest voice imaginable) for what you feed your kids or how you parent. Maybe it’s a lover who wants you around when it’s convenient for him/her but makes you feel bad when you want more–deserve more. Perhaps it’s an old high school friend or even family member you’ve kept in touch with who continues to bring you down…every.damn.day.

And it’s not always a person. A job that pays the bills but drains your spirit and sucks out your insides. Maybe it’s drugs, alcohol, exercise, social media, shopping…anything that numbs you to the world and prevents people from seeing you.

It takes courage and strength to walk away from these people and situations. However, in doing so, you ultimately liberate, free and eliminate the dead weight on your soul.

I’ve often said that I’m not a trained counselor and anything I share is simply from a place of experience with the intention to help others avoid mistakes I’ve already made. But, I did stay at a Holiday Inn once, so I want to do more.

I want you to do more.

Go to your photo albums, look at a snapshot that represents an “authentic you” and answer these questions:

What do you feel when you look at her/him?

What do you like about that person?

What makes that person different than the person you are now?

What needs to happen in order to love the person you are now in order to be the authentic self you were then?

Now, feel free to paste those pictures in the comments below. Tell your story there or get in touch with me at mt_rd@hotmail.com and use this RoS/Braveheart platform to share your courageous words. I’m looking for guest writers!

I have read your talented words and you have blessed me with glimpses into your whole hearts. It’s your prose and the life stories you’ve shared that have given me a voice, too. For that, I’m forever grateful!

xo

Michelle (MamaMick)

An unedited picture of joyful me taken by my son 3 months into "being fixed."

An unedited picture of joyful me taken by my son 3 months into “being fixed.”

Special thanks to Christy and Jennie for sharing their #TBT photos (aren’t they soooo cute!!!).

*For information on Brene’ Brown’s online art class, look here.  Her second session starts in April. My markers and watercolors are poised for more!

The Bubble Hour (reblog)

runningonsober:

My good friend Kristen from ByeByeBeer will be participating in “The Bubble Hour” podcast (an excellent sobriety resource) TONIGHT (Sunday, March 2), along with fellow bloggers Mrs D, One Crafty Mother, and UnPickled. Swing by Kristen’s post for details and to congratulate her. I couldn’t be prouder for these fine ladies. You can listen in tonight, or download and listen at your convenience; details are in Kristen’s post. -christy

Originally posted on ByeByeBeer:

Once, hours before hosting a dinner party, my husband and I decided to change the light fixtures on a ceiling fan we’d scarcely noticed before. Nevermind that the food and hosts still needed work or that this involved a Saturday afternoon trip to Home Depot. Swapping out perfectly good sconces for almost identical ones became the number one priority.

If you notice my theme looks different, you’re not imagining it. (If you didn’t, uh, nevermind?) I came in to put up a short post and changed all the sconces instead. It was an accident at first because I couldn’t figure out how to get the column-thingies at the bottom to appear on the right without changing the theme and this is why I like words like ‘sconce’. They are soothing and they distract and deflect.

I’m going to be on a podcast tonight called The Bubble Hour with fellow sober…

View original 325 more words

Running, Dieting and Suzie Q

Happy Tuesday (or whatever day you happen to read this), everyone. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here. I’m going to break my “vow” of having my words “be anything but empty,” because, frankly, I’m spread a little thin right now. I’ve got some good stuff in the pipeline though: I’m excited about a “free write” that I am bravely posting this Saturday; I’ve been working on a post dedicated to my Mom who passed in March 2011; and I’ll soon have more running material and running playlists. Did I mention I’m running again?

* I’m running again! There, I mentioned it. That’s been one of my projects keeping me busy. It’s going slowly, literally and figuratively, but at least it is going again.

* Plus, we are in the process of reflooring our downstairs. (Damn, tile is expensive! Rather, tile labor is expensive.) We finally decided on materials and colors, and after the materials come in, the fun part will begin. Installation. Don’t be surprised to see a Vent/Rant post or maybe a guest post or two while I try to keep my sanity.

* Plus, taxes. Don’t ask.

* Plus, cows. We have two new calves! A boy with the bluest eyes I’ve seen on a cow, or bull — so I named him Frankie for Ole Blue Eyes. And a little girl who runs with her tail straight up in the air–its tip curled like a little Q, so her name is Little Suzie Q. I’ll get some pictures of them, Baby Gracie (who’s not such a baby anymore) and Baby Donkey (who has grown into a huge pesky brat) up soon. Maybe another kid-friendly video post?

* Plus, Spot. She responded REALLY well to the first wave of chemo, but since we began tapering her prednisone (pred), her node swelling has returned. So we upped her pred again, and that seems to be keeping the swelling to a minimum, so fingers crossed the pred allows the chemo drugs to do their work. It’s been a little stressful.

* Plus, diet. Yeah, I don’t get to eat unlimited Twix bars forever, especially if I’m not running. And I love my Twix bars. So … I’m running again. And will hopefully be back to chocolate and caramel soon.

* Plus, I’ve just been tired. I guess, see all of the above, and some of the stuff I haven’t shared. This too shall pass though, right?

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So in the interim, did y’all like Michelle’s post on Bravery vs. Courage last week? Isn’t she awesome? I met Michelle via Victoria’s Freshly Pressed post on Vulnerability, and we clicked right from the get-go.

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Jennie is currently working on something for Addiction in the Family; I’m excited about her series too, as I know many of you are. Did you happen to catch her recent poem “Here My Name is Alice“? It looks at addiction’s impact on others, and I think it is brilliant. Here’s a snippet:

Here my name is Alice.

and you.
You are your own Jabberwocky
standing against yourself
reflecting  through forty-
ounce mirrors
as you call for a refilled cup
And the demon dragon scatters
pieces in puddles, as
you toss me the reforged sword -
expecting me to stand against
that which you can not move
Down! Move Down!
in the face of, yourself

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And another something I read and loved … White Lady In the Hood’s post “Back Porch.” Her imagery of sitting on the back porch, waiting for Spring and its blooming dogwoods, magnolias, and azaleas makes me want to pour a glass of iced tea and sit on my own porch and daydream about warmer days.

Every spring, I make a resolution to landscape the yard proper…and every year the plants and bushes are content to grow where they please.

To read more of White Lady’s post, visit her blog and while you’re there, hit the follow button–you won’t be disappointed. White Lady is one of the finest storytellers I know, and when she publishes her book (please?!), I will be first in line.

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Edited to add: I just read a call for help on Guap’s blog about a young lady in danger of losing her home. Her blogging name is MerBear, and she has helped a lot of people out there. If there’s any way you can assist her or if want to learn more, check out Guap’s post, or visit her fundraising page on youcaring.com. Sheena from Not a Punk Rocker wrote a very nice post too: “Help Save MORE Than a House.”

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Until this weekend, that’s all I got folks. Except this:
funny-fat-bird-how-diet-going-bent-tree-branch-comic-pics
And this:
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Have a great week, see y’all on Saturday!
Christy